By: Kels Dayton
If you’re even a casual baseball fan who doesn’t dive into Baseball Prospectus looking for the next Lastings Milledge (sorry, Mets fans), you’ve probably heard about Astros super-prospect George Springer.
The former UConn standout was the highest-drafted Husky in history, being selected with the 11th overall pick by the Houston Astros in 2011.
Springer has skyrocketed through the minors–hitting .303 with 37 home runs and 45 steals (in just 53 attempts) in 135 combined games in Double-A and Triple A last season. He has become one of baseball’s most coveted prospects and the assumed savior of the Houston Astros franchise, as ridiculous as that may be.
So who is this Springer kid? We asked UConn head coach Jim Penders to give us the lowdown on who he is, what makes him tick, and if he really is the next big thing in baseball:
He’s an incredible athlete… “His freshman year, his athleticism was apparent. He baited our catcher in a scrimmage…he was leading off of third, and kept inching down the third base line in between pitches. I was wondering what he was doing out there.
“On the third pitch, he caught our catcher’s eye. He winked at me, then baited out catcher into throwing the ball to third and stole home standing up. Not even a throw from the third baseman. He was crossing home plate and high-fiving his teammates. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years in baseball. But to him, it wasn’t a surprise. He’d done it before.”
His biggest strength is….“His athleticism. His last name fits him to a T. He’s coiled like a spring, ready to jump into action at any time. He does just about everything well. He can hit, hit for power, he can throw, he can really run, he plays great defense. The most impressive thing about him is the fact that he really loves the game, he’s got a passion for it and a passion for the people around it.”
The thing you need to know about Springer is…“He’s a comedian. We were in San Diego on a road trip in 2011, and you could always hear his voice at the back of the bus. He did a spot-on Tracy Chapman impersonation that was just…one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. He was singing all of her songs. It was just hilarious, and that’s the kind of guy he is, always smiling, always making people laugh.”
He can dance, too…“We had a rain delay during a game against South Florida [in March 2009], and somehow we ended up getting into a dance-off. It was pretty funny. He was the most talented dancer on the field, too. Whatever he does, he’s going to be the best at it.”
He will be successful in the bigs if…“He just continues to be George. His critics would say he needs to cut down on his strikeouts, but he does everything full-out. I remember watching Reggie Jackson with the Yankees in the ’70s, and even his swings and misses were entertaining. George is the same way. He hits for a high enough average, that if he didn’t strike out, he’d hit .400. He’s just that good a hitter.”
As told to SportzEdge